As the morning dawns, there are some of you who are thinking, spring will never come after, not after all the snow and ice that has fallen in the past few days. The first official day of spring is March 20th, but the promise of warmer weather and brighter days occur all month-long. Go outside and hunt for signs of spring to boost your mood. Here are some “spring things” to look and listen for: budding trees and flowers, crocuses, daffodils, newly arriving bird species, nest-building, caterpillars, ducks flying overhead, rainy days, worms on the sidewalk, baby animals, people cleaning their yards, forsythia, magnolias, windy days, songbirds singing, blooming fruit trees and butterflies.
Spring fruits and vegetables are beginning to appear in my market and soon they will be in yours, so here are a few dinner ideas to get you started.
What spring foods are you most looking forward to?
Cherry Tomato and Prosciutto Focaccia
Serve with Spring Onion Soup (recipe below)
- 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups baby arugula
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut or torn lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced into ribbons
Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll and stretch dough into a large rimmed baking sheet, at least 15 x 10 x 1 inches. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
While dough is baking, mix together tomatoes, shallot, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium-size bowl. Spread tomatoes in an even layer in a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently stir in arugula.
Sprinkle 1 cup of the mozzarella over the dough and scatter tomato mixture over the top using a slotted spoon. Distribute prosciutto slices over tomatoes. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over the top and bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes, then sprinkle with basil.
Spring Onion Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 bunches scallions—white and tender green parts cut into 1-inch lengths, green tops thinly sliced
- 4 leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups half & half
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 ounces cream cheese (1/4 cup), at room temperature
In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the white and tender green parts of the scallions, along with the leeks, fennel and onion; season with salt and white pepper.
Cook over low heat, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Add the wine and boil over high heat until reduced to a few tablespoons, 12 minutes.
Add the water and half & half and bring to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are very tender and pale green, 15 minutes.
Add the scallion green tops and cook just until softened, 2 minutes.
Working in batches, puree the soup in the pot with a hand blender or in a blender and return it to the pot. Season with salt and white pepper.
In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the cream cheese. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls, drizzle with the creamy buttermilk before serving.
Spring Shrimp Salad
Serve with Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins (recipe below).
- 1 lemon, plus wedges for serving
- 1 pound (16 to 20 count) large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 package (6-ounce) baby arugula
- 2 packages (8 to 9 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
From the lemon, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze 1 tablespoon juice, set juice aside.
In a large bowl, toss lemon peel, shrimp and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium. Add onions; cook 1 minute. Add 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until golden, stirring. Transfer to plate.
Add shrimp to the skillet and cook 6 minutes or until opaque, turning once. Divide arugula among 4 plates; top with shrimp.
In the skillet, heat remaining oil on medium-high. Add artichokes; cook 2 minutes or until golden. Add reserved lemon juice, 1/4 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Cook 4 minutes or until artichokes are hot. Remove from heat. Stir in mint. Divide among plates.
Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
- 1/2 cup sliced fresh rhubarb
- 6 small fresh strawberries, halved
- 2 teaspoons sugar
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, beat the egg, milk and oil until smooth. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
Fold in strawberries and rhubarb.
Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Place a strawberry half, cut side down, on each. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 375°F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen.
Farfalle with Peas and Mozzarella Cheese
Serve with Spring Green Salad (recipe below)
- 8 ounces farfalle pasta
- 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, do not thaw
- 1 large red pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 bunch chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- 4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
Bring a medium-size pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
Add peas and red pepper to the pasta pot for last 2 minutes of pasta cooking time. Drain pasta mixture and set aside.
Meanwhile, stir together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water; set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute. Stir in wine and bring to a boil. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in salt.
Add pasta mixture to skillet and stir together with the sauce. Stir in chives, walnuts and mozzarella cheese, adding pasta water by the tablespoonful if mixture appears dry. Serve immediately.
Spring Green Salad
- 8 cups (about 1 pound) mixed spring greens (mesclun, mache, watercress, baby arugula, dandelions)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
Wash and dry greens, place in a large bowl. Add chives and season with salt and pepper; drizzle with the olive oil. Toss well to coat.
Squeeze lemon juice over the greens and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.
Chicken and Asparagus Skillet Supper
Serve with Herbed Rice (recipe below)
- 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 3 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed
- 1 small yellow summer squash, halved crosswise and cut in 1/2-inch strips
- 4 green onions, cut in 2-inch pieces
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet, cook chicken and bacon over medium-high heat 12 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Carefully add broth; cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes more or until chicken is tender and no longer pink.
Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe 2-quart dish, combine asparagus, squash and 2 tablespoons water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Cook on 100% power (high) 3 to 5 minutes, until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring once. Transfer to plates and drizzle with the vegetable cooking liquid; top with chicken, bacon and green onions.
- 1 ¾ cups low sodium chicken broth or water
- 1 cup short-grain rice
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup sliced celery
- 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh herbs (such as basil, oregano, parsley, thyme or parsley)
- 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary
In a medium saucepan bring broth or water to boiling; stir in the uncooked rice. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the saucepan from the heat; let rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook and stir onion in hot oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add celery, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 1 minute more or until vegetables are tender. Remove skillet from the heat. Stir in cooked rice, fresh herbs and rosemary just until combined.
Spring Minestrone With Chicken Meatballs
Serve with Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini (recipe below)
- 6 ounces ground chicken (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided, plus more for garnish
- 4 garlic cloves, 2 minced, 2 thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 1 large egg, whisked to blend
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
- 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 3/4 cup ditalini or other small pasta
- 1 cup 1/2-inch rounds peeled carrots
- 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
- Chopped fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix chicken, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves, chives, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.
Form into 1/2-inch-diameter meatballs (makes about 28).Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.
Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leek to the pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Stir in pasta and carrots; simmer until pasta is almost al dente, about 8 minutes. Add meatballs; simmer until pasta is al dente and the carrots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese; stir until spinach is wilted and Parmesan is melted. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped basil and additional Parmesan.
Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini
- 12 thin slices baguette (from 1 small thin loaf)
- 2 cups grape tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1/2 cup ricotta
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Heat oven to 400° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
Roast until the tomatoes are beginning to burst, 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides of the bread with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Bake until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
Dividing evenly, spread the ricotta on the toasted baguette slices, top with the tomato mixture and sprinkle with the thyme.